The photo of a flattened 2010 Honda Fit filled the large onstage screen behind Principal Bill Lee as he spoke to several hundred students in Marietta High School's auditorium Monday morning.
"Someone asked me if this car had fallen out of the sky-it didn't. Last Monday two of our students were (in) this car, and they're extremely lucky to be alive today," Lee said. "You've heard me say it before-life's tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid."
He said the two young men involved in the mishap, the 16-year-old driver and his 17-year-old passenger, had not used good judgment which resulted in a crash that set off a chain reaction of events that could have turned out deadly.
Marietta High School Principal Bill Lee, left, and Glendale Road resident Kathryn Hartline spoke to several hundred students about making smart decisions Monday in the wake of a major car accident that involved two MHS students last week.
The Marietta Times
Lee read The Marietta Times article describing the Nov. 26 accident in which the Honda ran off the roadway in the 1500 block of Glendale Road.
The car knocked over a power pole, bringing down live electrical lines that fell across an oncoming vehicle, and caused a power surge that caught a clothes dryer in a nearby home on fire.
Miraculously, there were no serious injuries, although the 17-year-old passenger in the Honda said he was transported to Marietta Memorial Hospital for a bump on the head.
Teens and car crashes
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.
In 2010, an average of seven teens, ages 16 to 19, died every day from motor vehicle injuries.
Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
In 2010, about 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16 to 19 were killed, and almost 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.
The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 61-year-old woman driving the vehicle on which the power lines fell did not wait for the lines to be removed, but was able to exit her car without being harmed.
Lee said the 16-year-old driver of the Honda was cited with failure to control the vehicle.
But after reading the news article Lee told the students what the outcome might well have been more serious.
"These two guys would be dead," he said, pointing to the two involved in the accident.
"And the driver whose car became entangled in the power lines-who also made a poor choice by getting out of her vehicle amid the live wires-would have been the second death," Lee said, adding that the dryer fire in the house next door where a woman and her two children live would have been three more deaths.
He emphasized the choices people make can have an impact on their families, friends and on someone they may not even know.
Lee asked the 16-year-old driver how fast the Honda was traveling when the crash occurred at 11:45 a.m.
"I'd say about 60 or 65 mph," the young man answered, noting they were trying to get back to school before their lunch break was over at noon.
The speed limit on the road is 35 mph.
He added that the vehicle flipped over once after striking the pole, causing both front and side air bags to deploy. Both driver and passenger were wearing their seat belts.
The driver said he had not been issued a ticket by police, but he has to appear in court on Dec. 27.
Kathryn Hartline, 38, is the mother of two who lives in the home at 1502 Glendale Road where the dryer fire occurred.
"I'm very thankful that you guys are not injured," she said, adding that she, too had been involved in an auto accident at age 17 when she was also a student at MHS.
Hartline said she understood that accidents can happen to anyone.
"But you have to look out for yourselves and for other people," she said. "Mr. Lee said these two students are lucky, but I'm lucky, too. I had been doing laundry earlier that morning-I could have died and left my children without their mother."
Hartline noted that the blaze had blackened a large portion of the wall behind the dryer, and some clothing hanging nearby was burned.
She added that her children often play in the front yard and also could have been killed, in addition to the 61-year-old driver who got out of her car amid the downed power lines.
"My message to you all is that you're in control. Texting can wait, phone calls can wait and speed can wait," she said, adding that being five minutes late for class is better than losing a life.
MHS student Andrew Lisk, 16, said the message is something students need to hear.
"I thought this was a very good presentation," he said. "And I can relate to what they're talking about. I think most of these kids will benefit from it."
Going into Monday's assembly Chase Mayer, 17, didn't know who had been in the accident.
"I was afraid it might be one of my close friends," he said, adding that he did know the car's driver.
Mayer said he was also shocked to hear the crash had occurred within a few blocks of the school.
"Someone was looking out for them,' he said. "It could have ended a lot worse."
Mayer's brother, Sterling, also 17, said the incident should be a wake-up call for other students.
"So many people think that something like this couldn't happen to them," he said.
Fellow student Taylor Davis, 17, said he knew the driver and passenger who survived the crash.
"It surprised me because they're both really smart people," he said. "And I have to give them kudos for standing up and talking about it in front of everyone. They're trying to get some good out of a bad experience."
Davis said the incident would have an impact on his driving, too.
"It made me think about not going that extra 5 mph when I'm driving through town," he said.
During the presentation Lee asked if any students could tell him what was written on a large sign from the Ohio Highway Patrol that's posted in the school's main hallway.
One student correctly answered, "You are in control."
Lee said that was right, but there were three other words on the sign that are just important.
"Those three words are safety, responsibility and awareness," he said.